ABOUT TOM WOODS

Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis). A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)



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Hey, Everyone, Look at Me: I’m Against Slavery!

13th July 2013      by: Tom Woods     

In light of recent libertarian showboating I have composed this couplet:

Hey, reporter, look at me
I’m against slavery!

It took a lot of courage to oppose slavery in, say, 1855. It takes zero courage to oppose it today. This is one reason I am convinced that those who are most ostentatious in their aversion to slavery in 2013 are the least likely to have opposed it at the time. Their excessive eagerness to disassociate themselves from perceived “extremism” would not have served them well in the 1850s, when abolitionism, which had zero electoral success, was the most notorious extremism of the day.

Who in 2013 ever found himself dismissed from his post, or held up to scorn, for opposing slavery?

The most recent case is Jason Kuznicki, who unbosoms to the world his views on the War Between the States in a recent column. Among other things, Kuznicki writes: “Anyone who cares about human liberty — to whatever degree — ought to despise the Confederacy, ought to mock and desecrate its symbols….”

Here, it seems to me, Kuznicki falls into the trap most left-liberals and neoconservatives fall into: he conflates government and society. Here’s what I mean.

The grotesque atrocities carried out during the war against a defenseless civilian population are too well known to need repeating. And unless we are going to fall for the crazy collectivism of the Randians, who claim to be individualists while speaking of “terrorist countries,” there were indeed innocent people in the South. If we look the other way at the butcheries to which they were subjected, we are no better than Donald Rumsfeld and his fake concern for collateral damage in Iraq.

If a man gave his life defending his home against invaders, who should care about the intentions of his government — of all things? He protected his family, and there is, therefore, nothing wrong with his descendants honoring his memory. It would be strange if they didn’t.

Did the southern secession have something to do with slavery? Obviously. I see no reason not to take the secessionists at their word, and we are being dishonest if we do not acknowledge the references to slavery in the secession documents. But the war? The war was fought to prevent the secession, not to free the slaves. People who took up arms in the South did so because they were being invaded.

What exactly was a man supposed to do when Union armies went about setting fire to his town? “Mr. Union soldier sir, I realize that I fall under your righteous wrath because of the geographical region in which I happen to reside, and because the rulers who — through no influence of mine — have come to rule this place have been said to have disreputable goals. Please do kill me on the spot, and burn all the buildings, and leave the children to scavenge for food — even cats, dogs, and rats. I deserve this because of what my government has done.”

Leave aside all the insufferable 21st-century respectable libertarian speechifying. It is not libertarian to expect someone to have said something as preposterous as this. People fighting to repel invaders are not automatons of the regime under whose banner they fight. They have their own reasons for doing what they do — not seeing their families tortured or starved to death being one of them.

It is also interesting to consider, as Clyde Wilson observes, the southerners who returned to the South from the North and West, so that they might share the southern people’s fate during the war. Kentucky’s Simon B. Buckner gave up a fortune in Chicago real estate; George W. Rains of North Carolina left a prosperous iron foundry he had established in Newburgh, New York; Alexander C. Jones of Virginia resigned a judgeship in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he had lived twenty years; Joseph L. Brent of Louisiana gave up a lucrative law practice and leadership of the Democratic Party in Los Angeles. We are to believe that these people, and countless others besides, dropped everything and put their prosperous lives on indefinite hold in order to go fight for slavery? Who could be so blinded by prejudice as to persuade himself of such a ridiculous proposition?

Readers at Rachel Maddow’s level will take what I am saying as a defense of the Confederacy. I don’t defend any government, as anyone who glances at my work for five minutes can see, so it would be rather odd for the Confederacy to be the one government in human history for which I make an exception. My political philosophy is available for anyone to examine.

What I am saying is that life is nearly always more interesting than a Washington policy wonk thinks — and thank goodness for that! It is not right, and ludicrously at odds with the libertarian spirit, to conflate government with the individuals who must live under it.

Do I stand to gain anything by writing this? Unlike Kuznicki, I say things that go against the grain even though I know they will yield me nothing but grief. I hope this means I would have opposed injustice when it counted and when it might have done some good, and not just 150 years later, when I safely say what everyone thinks, to the applause of the world.

Unlearn the Propaganda!

  • Anonymous

    Since Americans are so intellectually and emotionally unengaged that they cannot be shamed or outraged by the horrors of war (“I hate people, but I love animals!”), or outraged by Lincoln, I’ve decided that we must focus our presentment of Lincoln’s war crimes as experienced by dogs, cats and other pets. From page 145 of “War Crimes Against Southern Civilians” by Walter Brian Cisco:

    “One bizarre undercurrent of Sherman’s devastation came to be known as the “war on dogs.” Convincing themselves that Southerners used bloodhounds to track escaped Union prisoners of war, the invaders became obsessed with the notion that all dogs be destroyed. A Federal colonel said that “we were determined that no dogs should escape, be it cur, rat dog or blood hound; we exterminate all.” And he saw no need to waste ammunition on the creatures. “The dogs were easily killed. All we had to do was to bayonet them.”" Some animals, such as cats, “seemed to feel it in the air that something was approaching,” observed one woman in the path of Sherman’s army. “The watchdog had, in fear, crouched under the dining table,” she said, “when a soldier, spying him there, shot him.”12 Another lady living in Barnwell wrote that the first act of the invaders upon breaking into her home was to kill her pet dogs. They barked and growled at the intruders, “but in an instant both were hushed, two sharp pistol reports followed the last growl as the faithful dogs bounded forward only to fall in their tracks, dead.” Her terrified children stood by, “shedding silent tears.”13 Sometimes soldiers used the butts of their rifles to kill beloved pets in the presence of children.14”

    These Lincoln defenders obviously are in favor of the slaughter of children’s pet dogs. What’s wrong with those people?

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/everyone-has-an-ideology/?comments#permid=109

  • TooLazyToLogin

    But where, when, and how you were raised probably would. I’m 100% against segregation now, but knowing that I would have been surrounded by people I love who wanted to keep segregation in tact had I been born 50 years earlier leaves me with a bit of uncertainty. On the one hand, it seems unthinkable that I could support something like that. On the other hand, political and social pressure isn’t exactly what I would call “weak.” It influences the way just about every politician and high school student behaves, for instance.

    When we talk about slavery, I’m even more worried. I’m totally against it now, but I wasn’t born into a family that had slaves. An important point, because as Dr. Woods pointed out in a lecture I recently listened to (although he may have been quoting Charles Murray from “Losing Ground”), people tend to seek to gain the most for the least amount of work.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, Dr. Woods! Thanks!

  • CK

    Well said. The cultural marxism of the regime libertarians is getting quite underwhelming.

    Here’s the problem with most regime libertarians, and even Randians. These people, for the most part, grew up dorks and losers. There’s not a lot of jocks or frat boys amongst the group. They’re insecure and want to fit in, thus, the “look at me, I’m against slavery.”

    In my interactions with many of these folks over the years, I’m reminded of Chesterton’s critique of Nietzsche through Joan the Maid:

    “And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow.”

  • Anonymous

    The section in this post about courage and extremism was a brilliant bit of analysis. It’s very easy to be against slavery in 2013, but in the 1800s that would have been an radical extremist position that would have made you a real target.

    Where slavery was in the1800s, that’s where we’re at with regards to challenging the necessity of the state.

  • Mike

    Try a mirror my naive child.

  • Anonymous

    So are you for blanket accusations or against them?

    I consider myself a Randian Objectivist. But I don’t fit the mold of all the traits you attribute to Randians. I certainly don’t feel part of any collective, liberally apply the ‘terrorist’ label, or believe in any type of war. Nor is or has that ever been a condition of enlistment. But boy do you beat me over the head with it anyway. Ouch.

    You know I love your stuff, and you make more than enough sense without doing the very thing you’re arguing against. So, you know, maybe just stick to slaying one beast at a time next time. You still make great points otherwise. But I could have done without the bruises.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a good one for Walter Block. Trust me…

  • Anonymous

    I disagree. Despite the endless efforts by the MI to promote Rothbard (and for good reason) by and large most folks have come to Libertarianism either through Ron Paul or Ayn Rand. So while you may feel your beef is justified for reasons few have the time to care about, you’re still just doing the thing that makes people universally hate academics. Bogging down the greater movement over some minor personal or philosophical differences. From you of all people I expected better.

    If I wanted to be a rote automaton for a single rigid set of ideas I’d find much more company amongst the Democrats and Republicans, no?

  • Anonymous

    But, what you describe is not what happened in 1861.
    You break into my house, I have a right to kill you.

  • Steven Berson

    Jason – yes, you are correct regarding their 1848 official platform which indeed did not advocate for abolition but solely for the opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories. I will note that John P. Hale, their Presidential candidate for 1852 was a strong and vocal abolitionist though – and he received 5% of the popular vote (but no electoral votes). Thanks for the accuracy check!

  • Nick Rogers

    I agree with this article to the point that it urges people not to generalize or demonize the south and southerners, then and now, but I’m confused at the the rest of the articles point. I haven’t read Mr. Woods stuff but is he very much the kind of Libertarian who labels the Civil War as the War of “Northern aggression”?
    Of course, Mr.Woods thinks Slavery is bad…the question is, does he think that the concept of States Rights is such a morale imperative that its morally preferable that States should be able to have legalized slavery than that the Federal government should be forcefully stopping it?

    To say,

    “I see no reason not to take the secessionists at their word, and we are
    being dishonest if we do not acknowledge the references to slavery in
    the secession documents. But the war? The war was fought to prevent the
    secession, not to free the slaves. People who took up arms in the South
    did so because they were being invaded.”

    strikes me as a cop out. Basically, Mr.Woods is admitting that secession was strongly if not primarily about slavery, but he attempts to isolate that by saying “But the Union was responding to secession, not to slavery, and the poor southernors were just defending themselves!”.

    The Union was responding to secession beacuse the south had seceded, and the south had seceded beacuse, among other things, it felt that the institution of slavery was threatened by the North and the Federal government. Mr.Woods post seems to be about justifying the south at the expense of the Union , Slavery and its other attendant institutions, by artificially separating cause, slavery, from effect, secession.

    Secession is not a Constitutional Right. The ability of the people of the United States to dissolve the constitution is an extra constitutional right. How could it not be? James Madison himself dismissed the idea that states somehow had a legal right to “Secede”. Once you “Secede” all legality goes out the window. You are forcefully destroying the legal compact with the mother country. It is not a “legal” action anymore than declaring war on another country is. Would anyone argue that the American Revolution was “Legal”?

    No. We must then argue rather the secession is justified or not. If we look at the American Civil War, and the south’s secession, we have to ask ourselves, was the south justified in seceding? For that, we have to ask, why was it seceding? It was seceding beacuse of the slavery issue. This was the central axis around all the North-South dialogue revolved, rather it was tariff’s or border disputes, etc. etc.

    To look at the North, we should approach it according to just war theory.

    1) Did the Unions War effort have a Just cause?

    Yes…I would argue that endangering the welfare of the entire Union beacuse the south wanted to maintain slavery was a just cause. Splitting the United States would have been disastrous to the long term interests of people in both the Union North and the Confederate South. This is completely ignoring the morale weight of slavery itself in any measure of the just-ness of the Unions war.

    2) Did the Union’s War have Competent authority?

    Lincoln was the democratically elected President of the United States.

    3) Did the Union’s War have a high probability of success?

    Most definitely. From the beginning the Union had strong advantages in Industry and man power.

    Moreover, the war crimes perpetrated by the Union against the South almost certainly pale in comparison to the War crimes perpetrated by the Anglo-American forces in WW2. The deliberate slaughter of German civilians (with little to no effect on how long the European war dragged on) makes Sherman’s march look like an excercise in promoting peace and love, especially considering Sherman’s march had an actual effect on bringing the Civil War to its end.

    With this in hand, are we now supposed to dismiss World War Two as being an unjust war? Of course not. And I’m not suggesting Mr.Woods is saying any such thing. What I am saying is that it is ridiculous for Mr.Woods to talk about southerners defending themselves from marauding and murderous Union forces as if those Union War crimes somehow have some greater significance on how we should judge the Union and confederate war efforts.

    These Union War crimes would not have happened in the first place if the South had allowed the morale abomination that was slavery to be rightly consigned to the ash heap of history. The Allies would not have bombed Dresden if a murderous Nationalistic anti Semite had not made it his personal ambition to conquer all of Europe. I’m not equating Hitler with the Confederacy, but the underlying logic is very much true.

    “What I am saying is that life is nearly always more interesting than a
    Washington policy wonk thinks — and thank goodness for that!”

    Ordinarily, I completely agree with that. Its just that in this context I think Mr.Woods wants to convey the idea that the Civil War is a morally complex affair and that the Union was not justifed. For all the complexity, I honestly believe that the root causes of the war are just as black and white as they have been portrayed. The Souths war was bad, and the Unions was good. The Union was fighting to preserve itself and the Confederacy was threatening the entirety of the United States for the sake of slavery.

    Mr.Woods is simply making the same mistake that so many relativistic leftists do. He is mistaking complexity for ambiguity.

    Lastly, most people who agree that the Union was right are not of this mindset,

    ““Anyone who cares about human liberty — to whatever degree — ought to
    despise the Confederacy, ought to mock and desecrate its symbols….”

    Mocking and desecrating symbols is petty and pathetic. I wouldn’t stomp on a soviet flag or desecrate a Talibans body, let alone the confederate flag and other confederate symbols. That said, I don’t necessarily despise the confederacy, but ultimately, I do despise its reasoning.

  • Nick Rogers

    Ahh, the Libertarian argument for slave holders.

  • Nick Rogers

    Another thought I had: ll this talk about private citizens defending their territory from invaders just seems naive.

    Yes, individual people often find themselves duty bound by bonds of kinship and friendship to fight in regrettable causes. Does this reflect much of anything on the causes themselves?

    Obviously, Mr.Woods and many of the people who read this post believe that the South was at least partially if not wholly justified…so why confuse the issue by dragging in this stuff about individual soldiers fighting. Good men fought in the Wehrmacht from Stalingrad to the gates of Berlin. What conclusion should we draw about Hitler? None!

    This just seems like an overly ingratiating way of trying seem more moderate, to seem reasonable, when of course, Mr.Woods seems to be strongly inclined towards the Anti-Lincoln, Pro-South view of the civil war. No doubt, Mr.Woods does not characterize himself as being “Pro-Confederacy”. But frankly, when faced with this ridiculous window dressing what are we supposed to conclude?

  • foo

    “Secession is not a Constitutional Right.”

    Wrong. Try actually reading and comprehending the Constitution:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    There is nothing in the Constitution prohibiting a state from seceding, therefore they retain that right. (Joining and leaving the Union is basically the state’s version of free association. The states had this power before joining, and nothing in the Constitution stripped it from them.)

    “James Madison himself dismissed the idea that states somehow had a legal right to “Secede”.”

    IIRC, Madison was for secesion before he was against it.

    “You are forcefully destroying the legal compact with the mother country.”

    There is no mother country. There is only a voluntary agreement among the several states. And there is no clause in that agreement that says it is a permanent arrangment from which no state may ever extricate itself. If there had been such a clause, I doubt a single state would have agreed to join in the first place.

    “Would anyone argue that the American Revolution was “Legal”?”

    Your language is sloppy. You are treating rights and legalities as if they are interchangeable. The founders certainly believed they had the *right* to revolt against England, and stated so in the Declaration of Independence:

    “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”

    And at the time of the American Revolution, the pre-existing law was English law, not the US Constitution. So any argument about law at that time (English law) has zero bearing on US Constitutional law.

    And if you want to talk legalities, how about the fact that declaring war is supposed to require an act of Congress? AFAICT, Lincoln never got any such declaration from Congress.

    “We must then argue rather the secession is justified or not.”

    No, you have no right to grant/withhold the right to secession on such grounds. The people of the states which are considering whether or not to withdraw are the only ones whose voice matters. Again from the Declaration of Independence:

    “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

    Once any state withdraws its consent to be governed by the Federal Government, that’s it. It’s over. The Federal Government at that point no longer has any “just powers” to enforce its will over the given state.

    It does not matter *why* the state chose to withdraw its consent. All that matters is that it *did* so.

    “Splitting the United States would have been disastrous to the long term interests of people in both the Union North and the Confederate South.”

    There’s no way you can know that. Splitting the Union might have produced the most wonderful results. You don’t get to kill hundreds of thousands of people just because you think things will turn out better if you do. By that logic, I can kill pretty much anyone I want so long as I think it will be an improvement. Poor people with no job skills? Kill ‘em. We don’t need them and they are taking up resources. Stupid people? Kill ‘em. The world will be much less annoying without them. Etc.

    “This is completely ignoring the morale weight of slavery itself in any measure of the just-ness of the Unions war.”

    Ending slavery had NOTHING to do with the North declaring war. Going against slavery was only done because the North believed it would help them win the war. They had already made the decision to go to war before they made any decision about ending slavery.

    “These Union War crimes would not have happened in the first place if the South had allowed the morale abomination that was slavery to be rightly consigned to the ash heap of history.”

    Your attempt to justify an action on a basis which was not actually a factor in deciding to take that action is pathetic. The North (Lincoln) chose to go to war with the South, not to free the slaves, but the enslave the South. For years after the war ended, southern states were not even granted representation in Congress — they had to be conditioned into submission like good slaves first.

    And by your logic, it’s justified for me to kill my wife (or maybe just one or two of the children) if she divorces me because she prefers another man whom she got to know while sleeping with him while we were married. After all, my killing her “would not have happened in the first place if the [wife] had allowed the [moral] abomination that was[is] [infidelity] to be rightly consigned to the ash heap of history.”

    “The Allies would not have bombed Dresden if a murderous Nationalistic anti Semite had not made it his personal ambition to conquer all of Europe.”

    WWII would likely never have happened if the US hadn’t intervened in WWI (which it should not have). Without the US backing them, in all likelihood: The UK would have been forced to settle with the Germans in WWI. There would have been no massive war reparations to sink the German economy. Hitler would have not had the environment he needed to rise to power.

    “The Souths war was bad, and the Unions was good.”

    No, the South was bad, and the North was worse. (Actually that’s not entirely fair to the North. It was Lincoln that was the worst. Northern state governments and members of the press that did not agree with Lincoln found themselves at the pointy end of a Union bayonet.)

    “The Union was fighting to preserve itself”

    You are confusing “the North” with “the [North+South] Union”. The North did not need to fight to preserve itself. The South was not attacking it, nor intending to take any such action. The North was not in any imminent danger from anyone. And if by “the Union” you mean North+South, that didn’t exist as a unit anymore. And to say the North+South “was fighting to preserve itself” is simply a gross disconnect between right and wrong. People have the right to preserve themselves, governments do not except as needed to protect people. There was and is no such thing as an inherent “North+South government right of preservation”, and governments *certainly* do not have a right to net/net kill/harm their people in order to preserve the government.

    “the Confederacy was threatening the entirety of the United States”

    It was doing no such thing.

  • Anonymous

    The libertarian argument against slave-holding.

  • Nick Rogers

    “Secession is not a constitutional Right”

    —–>

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    The right to secede is thus an extra constitutional right. You proved my point. Once again, its simply ridiculous to break down secession along legalistic grounds beacuse the entire point of it is that your breaking your legal bonds with another governing entity and refusing to submit to its laws. This is like arguing that there is a constitutional right to dissolve the constitution. No. If people have the ability to dissolve the constitution it is an extra constitutional right. The constitution recognizes that right. It does not make it. It is not a “legal” right. That’s like saying I have a “legal” right to refuse to acknowledge the law.

    The Constitution says people have the right to dissolve their government when it goes bad. Do you think the constitution is somehow established that right? If I’m contemplating open revolt against the US government do I ask myself, “Am I allowed, legally, to revolt?”

    No. This is preposterous. The only consideration in a revolt should be rather its justified or not. The south had the “right” to secede in the sense that everyone has the ability to rebel when they feel they are unjustly ruled. This says nothing about their justification for doing so.

    When it time to actually rebel, the founders did not go up to George III and ask him if they were legally able to throw out the British government.

    “There is no mother country.”

    Then there is no such thing as the United States of America.

    “And there is no clause in that agreement that says it is a permanent arrangement from which no state may ever extricate itself.”

    Once again, this is ridiculous. You cannot say, “I am going to provide for me reneging on this agreement in this agreement!”. Yes, States can secede. It is an extra constitutional right that they can. After they secede, they no longer fall under the protection of the Constitution.

    “Once any state withdraws its consent to be governed by the Federal Government, that’s it. It’s over. The Federal Government at that point no longer has any “just powers” to enforce its will over the given state.”

    And States have no power over their former government which invalidates federal action that aims to forcefully bring them back into the Union. You precisely illustrate my point. That swings both ways.

    “It does not matter *why* the state chose to withdraw its consent. All that matters is that it *did* so.”

    That argument could be used to justify all sorts of horrible actions.

    “There’s no way you can know that. Splitting the Union might have produced the most wonderful results.”

    Two nations, founded from the git go in a relationship of antagonism and rivalry, sitting right next to eachother, opening up the possibility for bloody conflict down the road, not to mention the increased chance of dismemberment by hostile powers, such as Great Britain. Division almost always leads to weakness.

    Unlike some historical postulating, it is simply not that hard to contemplate the repercussions of dividing the United States in two.

    “Ending slavery had NOTHING to do with the North declaring war. Going
    against slavery was only done because the North believed it would help
    them win the war.”

    Did anyone say it did? Quote me…did I say that? No. I was agreeing with the original posts summation that the Northern War effort was almost exclusively about restoring the Union. But that Northern war effort was in response to the southern secession, which was about the slavery issue. Therefore, we can still draw a causal link between the slavery issue and the northern war effort.

    My entire point is that the south was bringing it upon itself. Secession is not a constitutional right. It is a right, an ability, outside the constitutions parameters. If states choose to secede, they better have a damn good reason. The south’s reason was to support slavery. That is a morally abhorrent reason to secede and threaten the Unity of the whole.

    “WWII would likely never have happened if the US hadn’t intervened in WWI (which it should not have). Without the US backing them, in all likelihood: The UK would have been forced to settle with the Germans in WWI. There would have been no massive war reparations to sink the German economy. Hitler would have not had the environment he needed to
    rise to power.”

    First off, this seems like a whole lot of arguing for hypothetical coming from someone who just tried to argue against me doing exactly that in a case that was not nearly so complicated.

    Second off, none of what you just said in any way invalidates what the Anglo-American allies did. Yeah, if the United states had done some things differently, maybe things would not have turned out the way they did…so what?

    “Your attempt to justify an action on a basis which was not actually a factor in deciding to take that action is pathetic.”

    No ones attempting to justify those actions. I’m simply drawing attention to what caused those actions to occur in the first place. Saying that Hitler should not have done what he did is not “Justification” for bombing Dresden.

    “The North (Lincoln) chose to go to war with the South, not to free the slaves, but the enslave the South.”

    Prove to me specifically why you are using language like, “Enslave” the South. Denying representation? That’s not slavery. Unfair taxation? That’s not slavery. War reparations? That is NOT SLAVERY! Even if the Post War government was every bit as bad as you think it was, I challenge you to show how exactly they were “enslaving” the south.

    “For years after the war ended, southern states were not even granted representation in Congress — they had to be conditioned into submission like good slaves first.”

    You know from my perspective I simply cant get to upset that a bunch of former rebels were treated rather suspiciously after they were brought back into the fold. Not to mention that many of those former Rebels were prosecuting a successful post war effort that ended in many Southern states having a societal situation not too unlike what had existed in the pre-war era. This is the reason for that saying: The North won the War, the south won the reconstruction.

    Moreover, Lincoln was dead by this point. You seem to be judging his actions as president based on the actions of radical republicans in the post war era. That is grossly unfair.

    “And by your logic, it’s justified for me to kill my wife…”

    Just a rehash of the straw man argument you just tried to hoist on me. No one is attempting to justify Union War crimes. The existence of those Union War crimes does not, however, invalidate the Union war effort, anymore than the bombing of Dresden invalidates the Anglo-American War effort in World War 2.

    “Northern state governments and members of the press that did not agree with Lincoln found themselves at the pointy end of a Union bayonet.)”

    I’m not going to attempt to argue about what might have occurred until you provide legitimate sources for what you just said.

    “You are confusing “the North” with “the [North+South] Union”. The North did not need to fight to preserve itself. The South was not attacking it, nor intending to take any such action. The North was not in any imminent danger from anyone. And if by “the Union” you mean North+South,”

    Obviously, I am talking about the North+South Union.

    “that didn’t exist as a unit anymore.”

    That is exactly my point. Perhaps instead of preserve I should have said, Restore.

    “People have the right to preserve themselves, governments do not except as needed to protect people.”
    Preventing a disastrous long term split in the Nation over slavery is very much “protecting” people.

    “governments *certainly* do not have a right to net/net kill/harm their people in order to preserve the government.”

    So? How do you think the rule of law is maintained? Through the barrel of a gun. If governments are waging war to preserve themselves, that is not inherently a just or unjust thing. We have to ask, in each particular case, does the government have justification.

  • TheIrishAustrian

    * “So? How do you think the rule of law is maintained? Through the barrel of a gun. If governments are waging war to preserve themselves, that is not inherently a just or unjust thing. We have to ask, in each particular case, does the government have justification.” *

    I am not sure how one could argue that the North had justification for war against the confederacy without saying that they went to war to end slavery. Even if the South wanted to secede on the basis of maintaining the institution of slavery does that give the North the right to effectively dissolve the notion of a government based on consent of the governed if the justification for war is only to maintain the scope of its own power?

    The idea that we are better off now because the North fought to keep the Union together is quite miscalculated as well.

    * “Two nations, founded from the git go in a relationship of antagonism and rivalry, sitting right next to eachother, opening up the possibility for bloody conflict down the road, not to mention the increased chance of dismemberment by hostile powers, such as Great Britain. Division almost always leads to weakness.” *

    There is really no reason to think that there would be any animosity between the North and South had there not been a war, they would have been economically dependent on each other. There would have been a greater pressure on the South to end slavery and a greater difficulty in maintainting the institution without fugitive slave laws. Not to mention the fact that slavery would quickly be realized as an economically inefficient means of production.

    Then there is the direct effect that the centralization of federal powers and the great loss of individual state authority had on the American system of government. Many precedents for the trampling of rights and accumulation of government power were set during the reign of Lincoln, as well as the beginning of true corruption and central economic planning stemming from the creation of the second national banking system and massive spending programs like the transcontinental railroad. Many prominent historians trace the history of “American Exceptionalism” and the many travesties that have been carried out and justified by that frame of thought to the civil war.
    Lincoln was hardly an ardent abolitionist himself saying in his letter to Horace Greeley that if he could save the union without freeing a single slave he would do so. The south may have felt that the institution of slavery was being threatened by the political tides of the country, but it was hardly the main reason for rebellion against the North and the administration of Lincoln.Even if it was the sole platform on which the southern states stood as their reason for secession it still does not justify the invasion of a government that cares not for the freedom of the people they wish to maintain as their subjects. But rather the government of the United States was simply moved to slaughter its citizens and nullify their liberties in the name of empire and greater authority.

  • TheIrishAustrian

    And secession may not be a constitutional right, but the states were guaranteed, during the state ratification conventions, that they could nullify their agreement to join the union if they so chose.
    There was also a motion brought before congress during the civil war to outlaw secession. Why would this be necessary were it an illegal act?

  • foo

    “The right to secede is thus an extra constitutional right. You proved my point.”

    I don’t think extra-constitutional means what you think it means.

    And even if it did, you have no point. By your messed up definition of extra-constitutional, almost all state powers, e.g., the right to arrest and try murderers and thieves, is “extra-constitutional”. Those rights are reserved to the states by the very same clause that reserves the right of secession.

    “Once again, its simply ridiculous to break down secession along legalistic grounds beacuse the entire point of it is that your breaking your legal bonds with another governing entity and refusing to submit to its laws.”

    No, there is nothing ridiculous about it. If a contract allows you to exit, that’s entirely a different situation than a contract which binds you to it in perpetuity. In the first case, you may exit without violating the terms of the contract, at which point you are then free of the terms of the contract and therefore may do as you wish without violating it as it no longer applies to you. In the second case, you can’t exit without violating the contract. The Constitution is a contract of the first type.

    For example, the employment contract I have with my employer allows me to quit at any time and for any reason, and allows my employer to let me go at any time and for any reason. If I quit, that is not a violation of that contract. Quitting won’t get me sued for “breach of contract”.

    “The Constitution says people have the right to dissolve their government when it goes bad.”

    Not exactly. The Constitution allows the states to secede for any reason — not just “when government goes bad”. And if every state decides it no longer wishes to operate under the Constitution (secede), then yes, the Constitution (and therefore the federal government) is effectively dissolved. So long as at least one state wishes to continue to operate under the Constitution (and federal government), then the Constitution (and federal government) is still active — it just no longer applies to (has any just power over) states which seceded.

    “Do you think the constitution is somehow established that right?”

    The right of the sovereign states to chose with whom they wish to associate was not established by the Constitution any more than the right to individual free speech was established by the 1st amendment. Those rights both existed prior to the Consitution ever being conceived. The Constitution merely reserves without explicitly acknowledging (in the case of state association) or explicitly acknowledges (in the case of free speech) those rights.

    “If I’m contemplating open revolt against the US government do I ask myself, “Am I allowed, legally, to revolt?”"

    I know that if I wanted out of a contract I would certainly take into consideration the terms of that contract — whether or not there could be legal repercussions. Perhaps even more importantly, if a contract is one I think I might ever want out of, I will make sure it provides for my getting out *before* I sign it.

    “No. This is preposterous. The only consideration in a revolt should be rather its justified or not. The south had the “right” to secede in the sense that everyone has the ability to rebel when they feel they are unjustly ruled. This says nothing about their justification for doing so.”

    I’ve already answered this nonsense. You don’t get to take away someone’s right to free speech just because you don’t like what they are saying. You don’t get to void someone’s right to quit their job (assuming they are not contractually prevented from quitting) just because you want them to keep working for you. And you don’t get to take away a state’s right to secede just because you don’t like the reason for their secession.

    “”There is no mother country.”
    Then there is no such thing as the United States of America.”

    Wrong. Try reading what you actually wrote: “United States of America”
    Note the word “States”.
    Yes, they are (or at least were) voluntarily “United” in this agreement called the Constitution.
    Yes, they are located (mostly) on the (North) “American” continent.
    No, that does not necessarily constitute a country, just as the European Union does not necessarily constitute a country. (So your “if no country then no union” claim is false, whether or not one deems the US a country.)
    The federal government has usurped so much power that this may be hard for many people to understand at this point. People don’t see a union of states any more, despite the name of the union, despite the fact that to this day this collection is often still refered to simply as “the states”, they see only a country. (And the EU would like to do the same. So would the UN.)

    Anyways, arguing over the specifics of the meaning of the word “country” is not key here. What is key is your original claim about “the legal compact with the mother country”. The compact was not with any “mother country”. The compact was not with the federal government. The federal government did not exist before the Constitution was created (the Constitution created *it*), so it’s impossible for the Constitution to be an agreement with such a non-apriori-existing thing. The Constitution is in fact an agreement between the several states which chose to participate in it. That is all. Nothing more, nothing less.

    “Once again, this is ridiculous. You cannot say, “I am going to provide for me reneging on this agreement in this agreement!”.”

    Sorry, but you are mistaken. All kinds of agreements allow an exit. If my employment contract did not allow for such an exit, I would be effectively a slave of my employer. And you are constructing a logic inconsistency here where there is no necessity of one — exiting from a contract which allows such an exit is not “reneging”, nor is it “violating” the contract, or any other equivalent word you wish to come up with next while you continue to grasp at straws.

    “After they secede, they no longer fall under the protection of the Constitution.”

    And what is your point here? Canada is not under “the protection of the US Constitution”. Does that mean we should invade them?

    “And States have no power over their former government which invalidates federal action that aims to forcefully bring them back into the Union. You precisely illustrate my point. That swings both ways.”

    Your point here appears to be rather high on some kind of narcotic substance. As stated above, you seem to be trying to spell out a justificaition which would apply equally towards the invasion of Canada.

    “”It does not matter *why* the state chose to withdraw its consent. All that matters is that it *did* so.”
    That argument could be used to justify all sorts of horrible actions.”

    Like what? The *only* action it is arguing is a *right* of secession — an inalienable/undeniable/unconditional *right*. If some state decides that all 4 year old boys should be raped with corn cobs, and they secede to avoid federal interference, the above continues to acknowledge their right to secede. It does not, however, in any way, shape or form justify rape.

    Sovereign nations all over the world can (and do) do bad things to their own citizens. That we recognize the sovereignty of nations does not mean we condone those bad things. And that they do bad things to their own citizens (or occupants) does not mean we should invade and conquer them all. (And if you want to argue it does mean that, I would suggest we clean house at home before trying to tell others how to live their lives at the point of a gun.)

    “Unlike some historical postulating, it is simply not that hard to contemplate the repercussions of dividing the United States in two.”

    Wow. Truly impressed by your power of persuasion. /sarc

    I can contemplate all kinds of things. That doesn’t mean they will happen. Furthermore, I don’t have any right to force people to do things (or kill them) because I “contemplate” it’s in their own best interest. Neither do you. Neither did Lincoln.

    “My entire point is that the south was bringing it upon itself.”

    “No ones attempting to justify those actions.”

    “”And by your logic, it’s justified for me to kill my wife…”"

    “Just a rehash of the straw man argument you just tried to hoist on me.”

    You appear to be trying to make two arguments:
    1. that the war was justified
    2. that the South brought this war on itself (placement of blame)

    The killing the wife/kids over divorce after infidelity example is in no way a strawman. It is using your exact logic and words, except in a different scenario.

    You want to say the South brought this war on itself. In the alternate scenario that some logic says the wife brought death upon herself or her kids. There may be a causal relationship in both cases, but a mere causal relationship amounts to neither justification nor appropriate placement of blame. And without those, the causal relationship is simply not relevant.

    You want to say restoring the union was a necessity. In the alternate scenario the guy thinks restoring his (holy) union (of matrimony) is a necessity. Both are willing to kill to achieve their ends. Same logic.

    “Second off, none of what you just said in any way invalidates what the Anglo-American allies did. Yeah, if the United states had done some things differently, maybe things would not have turned out the way they did…so what?”

    The “so what” is that you were trying justify the Allies bombing Dresden by blaming it on Hitler’s ambition. I just pointed out it can just as easily be blamed on the actions the US took during WWI. If you don’t think playing the “X’s actions led to Y so it was X’s fault” game is relevant, then stop playing that game yourself.

    “Prove to me specifically why you are using language like, “Enslave” the South.”

    You should read my other post. (Just search the comments for “We have slavery now.”) And then consider that perhaps you are one of the sheep that can’t see slavery even when they themselves are enslaved.

    “Moreover, Lincoln was dead by this point. You seem to be judging his actions as president based on the actions of radical republicans in the post war era. That is grossly unfair.”

    Now that’s funny! You, Mr. “X’s action caused Y therefore it was X’s fault” now want to defend Lincoln against the results of the actions he set in motion. How else could it have played out? The whole point of the war was to subjugate the South. Did anyone think that once the fighting was done the South would just happily say “OK, you won ‘fair and square’ so we will play nice and just do everything you want us to do even though we were so against it we left the union and defended our new independence with the blood of hundreds of thousands”? Of course not. Probably the only way the South could have been placated was if, after the fighting was done, the North had said something like “OK, we’ve won, but we’re gracious winners so we will go ahead and add a Contitutional Amendment protecting slavery and the property rights of slaveholders”. And there goes your whole “moral imperative” up in smoke. (And that probably wasn’t really an option anyways as Lincoln had already burned that bridge.)

    “No one is attempting to justify Union War crimes. The existence of those Union War crimes does not, however, invalidate the Union war effort, anymore than the bombing of Dresden invalidates the Anglo-American War effort in World War 2.”

    I have no idea what you mean by “invalidate”. I suspect it simply means “not valid in your eyes”, in which case there is no point in arguing it.

    Also, I didn’t even have “war crimes” in mind when I created the alternate (wife/kids) scenario. Killing a kid or two in the alternate scenario is simply the “war” the man is waging to re-conquer the wife (or kill the wife to win the war for that ever-important “until death do us part” bit). Just think of the kids and wife as Confederate soldiers (or the wife as the Southern territory, depending on how the scenario plays out).

    “I’m not going to attempt to argue about what might have occurred until you provide legitimate sources for what you just said.”

    Unfortuantely there is little in the way of “legitimate sources” when it comes to history. There’s just about no way to tell who is lying and who is telling the truth (short of actual physical evidence still being around, and even in that case we probably don’t get to see it for ourselves). And there are far too many with an interest to twist history one way or another (and have been such people for as long as the written word has been around, generally with the victor of a war having the “privilege” of writing history as they like). You can start with this and then do your own research:

    “Many anti-war leaders and Valladigham followers, including members of the Illinois Congressional delegation and judges, spent significant portions of the Civil War in military prisons. In other cases, zealous Union generals and other officials denied anti-war newspapers the use of the federal mails, and even suppressed their publication. In July of 1862 military officials suppressed the circulation of the Quincy Herald on the premise that it encouraged the work of rebel guerillas in western Illinois. Pro-union mobs also shut several papers, including the Bloomington Times, through intimidation or the outright destruction of offices and printing apparatus. In 1864 soldiers stationed in Cairo marched a short distance from their camp to destroy the press and offices of the Chester Picket Guard, a persistent critic of the war and administration.”
    http://dig.lib.niu.edu/civilwar/law.html
    source cited:
    Arthur Charles Cole, Centennial History of Illinois: The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870 (Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1919) 303.

    “That is exactly my point. Perhaps instead of preserve I should have said, Restore.”

    And if “restore” is allowed by force/conquest, why not “create/expand”? As pointed out previously, why not invade Canada? Or find any/every country who is doing “bad things” to their own people and conquer them?

    “”People have the right to preserve themselves, governments do not except as needed to protect people.”
    Preventing a disastrous long term split in the Nation over slavery is very much “protecting” people.”

    You are still making baseless claims that I already refuted. (See previous comments about killing the unemployed and stupid.)

    If you go and kill one person, you better have a pretty convincing argument that you at least saved the life of one other person (and that the death was necessary to that end). The war killed 600+ thousand people. If you’re going to do that, you need a pretty convicing argument that you saved at least that many people (and that such a number of deaths was necessary) if you want to justify those actions. And there’s no way you can produce such an argument. (And don’t even *start* on slavery. Other places ended slavery *peacefully*. There is no reason that could not have been done here. And there is really no good reason to believe that, had the civil war not happened, the same would not have happened here.)

    I find that the more convincing argument is that the civil war was the first major step towards the centralization of government power in the United States, which was the first major step in the moral corruption of the United States, and therefore the indirect *cause* of *millions* of other deaths. No, I can’t *prove* that. But I do very much suspect it is the case. Furthermore, that centralization and corruption has also lead to the current enslavement of the entire middle class in the United States.

    “So? How do you think the rule of law is maintained? Through the barrel of a gun. If governments are waging war to preserve themselves, that is not inherently a just or unjust thing.”

    Try re-reading what I wrote. Look up the term “net/net” if you have to. Governments do not have a right to do more harm than good just to preserve their own power.

  • Nick Rogers

    “I don’t think extra-constitutional means what you think it
    means…Those rights are reserved to the states by the very same clause that reserves the right of secession.”

    Depending where you go, extra constitutional means “Beyond what is provided for in the constitution”. I would also say that for our purposes it is synonymous with “extra-legal”. For example, the Right to Free Speech, I would say, is a fundamental right that is not “provided” for but acknowledged in the constitution. I believe you said something much the same later in your response.

    Likewise, the “Right” to secede, I would say, is by definition, extra legal. It is entirely based on the notion of dissolving one rule of law and replacing it with another one.

    The “right” to secession is not a part of the state constitutions, why should it be? It is completely concerned with the states relationships to other states. The ability of state governments to perform powers such as try murderers and thieves is not “extra-legal” or “extra
    constitutional” beacuse the institution which does the trying is itself a legal body, the organization of which is provided for in the states respective constitutions.

    You are simply asserting that states have the right to secede under the constitution beacuse you are asserting that the “right to secede” can fall in the same broad category of unassigned powers as trying thieves. The two things are not at all alike.

    “No, there is nothing ridiculous about it. If a contract
    allows you to exit, that’s entirely a different situation than a
    contract which binds you to it in perpetuity. In the first case, you may exit without violating the terms of the contract, at which point you are then free of the terms of the contract and therefore may do as you wish without violating it as it no longer applies to you. In the second case, you can’t exit without violating the contract. The Constitution is a contract of the first type.”

    First off, your acting as if the constitutional “contract” is analogous to a contract between private citizens. It is no such thing. It is forming a government for the rule of law, a private contract is made between consenting citizens INSIDE the rule of law. A private contract is enforced via the rule of law. It is entirely a legal affair. Secession, as I have said, is, practically by definition, extra legal.

    Second off, the constitution itself does not “provide” for or “deny” the right to secede. As I have argued, I think that for it to do that would be absurd.

    ” Perhaps even more importantly, if a contract is one I
    think I might ever want out of, I will make sure it provides for my getting out *before* I sign it.”

    Does the Constitution provide for it in the same sense that private contracts usually do? No. This “right” to secede, from everything you’ve been arguing, falls inside a large grey area. If it was as clear cut and obvious as employee-employer contracts we wouldn’t be having this argument.

    If the southern states went into the Constitutional convention demanding the kind of guarantee employee’s have for when they leave, the southern states would not have signed.

    “I’ve already answered this nonsense. You don’t get to take away someone’s right to free speech just because you don’t like what they aresaying. You don’t get to void someone’s right to quit their job (assuming they are not contractually prevented from quitting) just because you want them to keep working for you. And you don’t get to take away a state’s right to secede just because you don’t like the reason for their secession.”

    Your third point there depends entirely on me agreeing with you that disputing a secession is comparable to taking away someones free speech rights. I don’t. The “right” of a government to secede is not anything like the right of a private citizen to free speech. One is a government entity, another is a private citizen or private group of people. States do not have “Free Speech Rights”. The state of California does not have the right to actively promote Christianity, for instance. And we both know why.

    “No, that does not necessarily constitute a country, just as the European Union does not necessarily constitute a country. (So your “if no country then no union” claim is false, whether or not one deems the US a country.)”

    That last sentence is a very big caveat. I think the
    US is a country. Prove to me why I’m wrong. If the Civil War was what clarified that then that’s one more reason why I approve of the Union war effort.

    I do not believe that the Federal government should
    reign supreme over the state governments. I think the pendulum goes back in forth; in American history the states have held too much power, and in other times the Federal government holds too much power. Both extremes should be despised though I will certainly agree with you that at its logical extreme the federal side of the pendulum is worse than the state side.

    All that said, my first loyalty, after God, is to the United States, not my State, until such time as it becomes obvious to me that the United States is either completely twisted or completely defunct, whichever comes first.

    ” (And the EU would like to do the same. So would the UN.)”

    As if the EU and the UN are anything like the United States. We are, at the very least, a nation defined in origin by a common ideology.

    “Sorry, but you are mistaken. All kinds of agreements allow an exit. If my employment contract did not allow for such an exit, I would be effectively a slave of my employer.”

    Your entire argument here depends entirely on me accepting that the Constitution is the same kind of agreement as a private contract, as I said earlier.

    “And what is your point here? Canada is not under
    “the protection of the US Constitution”. Does that mean we should invade them?” Isn’t your point that the Union government was doing something “Unconstitutional” by attempting to forcefully reign in the Southern States? My point is that the right to secession is not “provided” for in the Constitution, and thus any argument that the Union government was doing anything “unconstitutional” by attempting to reign them in falls flat on its face. You can say Lincoln might not have done what was Constitutionally mandated in starting the war, he might have made himself something like a military dictator and Unconstitutionally so. Even if I agreed with all that, that would be irrelevant to the question, was the Union doing something unconstitutional simply by waging war against the South.

    “Like what? The *only* action it is arguing is a *right* of secession –an inalienable/undeniable/unconditional *right*. If some state decides that all 4 year old boys should be raped with corn cobs, and they secede to avoid federal interference, the above continues to acknowledge their right to secede. It does not, however, in any way, shape or form justify rape.”

    Ahhh…the rape from corn cobs defense. I have not been so utterly convinced that I am right until you came out with that. If it was practically feasible for the United states to knock over every evil regime on the planet I would say, go ahead and do it. Obviously, we cant. Its not practical to do so. Its not in our best interests to do so.

    If Washington State decided little boys should be raped with corn cobs, and honestly I think their getting close these days, I would say the Federal government would have every justification to intervene to forcefully bring them back into the Union. And doing so would be imminently feasible, unlike, say, trying to democratize Iraq.

    “I can contemplate all kinds of things. That doesn’t mean they will happen.”

    But in this case they already were happen. Lincoln did not simply wake up and say “Im going to invade the south!”. He might have wanted to but that is not what he did. The South and the North, as is often the case in conflicts, drifted towards war as tensions ratcheted up. Even if Lincoln had done the utmost possible to avoid war, do you think it would never have happened short of the North simply conceding to every southern demand and accepting every claim they made?

    Take Fort Sumter. Neither side went in saying “blow the $h!t out of them!”. Both sides did not want to fire first. Neither side is clearly to blame for the beginning of active hostilities. The political situation simply impelled both forces closer and closer to active engagement until the inevitable spark lit fire to the whole thing. I might add that it was the Confederates who fired first. And this was happening everywhere. Unlike making assumptions based on what might have happened 20 years later if the Americans did this or that in World War 1, it is not a logical stretch to say that either the North would have had to make incredibly large concessions and recognition of the South, or war would have broken out. The two nations existed in close proximity, their relationship antagonistic from the first.

    “Now that’s funny! You, Mr. “X’s action caused Y therefore it was X’s fault” now want to defend Lincoln against the results of the actions he set in motion.”

    Did I say Union War crimes were the confederacies fault? No. I said they were largely irrelevant to the larger issue, doubly so beacuse they would never occurred if the confederacy had not seceded in the first place.

    “Unfortuantely there is little in the way of “legitimate sources” when it comes to history. There’s just about no way to tell who is lying and who is telling the truth (short of actual physical evidence still being around, and even in that case we probably don’t get to see it for ourselves). And there are far too many with an interest to twist history one way or another (and have been such people for as long as the written word has been around, generally with the victor of a war having the “privilege” of writing history as they like). You can start with this and then do your own research:”

    Everything you just said seems like a long
    winded attempt to justify why you were not able to easily produce sources for what you claimed happened. And if history is so easily twisted, how is that you did not immediately That little bit of history you just produced is not what you claimed happened. Was it bad? Sure.

    Was it journalists getting bayoneted for being “Anti-Lincoln”? No. And that is exactly what you claimed was happening. The anecdote you provided was not at all consistent with the suggestion you made. In that same source you cited, a journalist imprisoned by the Union

    This leads me to wonder, are your views of the entire war tainted by mistaken impressions about what actually happened?

    “No, I can’t *prove* that. But I do very much suspect it is the case. Furthermore, that centralization and corruption has also lead to the current enslavement of the entire middle class in the United States.”

    No. Your absolutely right. You simply suspect something that you can’t prove.

  • Anonymous

    Baloney.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent revelations. I’d never even suspected such actions. When ya think ya got the power, there’s apparently nothing ya won’t do.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, I fly past these poorly constructed posts, too.



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